3 takeaways from IMC 2022: 5G and beyond

Dhruv Sood
Global Digital Marketing Manager
Rakuten Symphony
October 17, 2022
minute read

This fall, the world has watched as the 5G agenda has taken meaningful steps forward. While Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Las Vegas included a heavy focus on 5G, India Mobile Congress (IMC) in New Delhi, was all about moving from simple 5G connectivity to use-case-driven meaningful connections.

October 1, 2022 was a historic day for the Indian telecom industry, marking the launch of 5G services in India by the Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 6th edition of Asia’s largest telecom festival, India Mobile Congress 2022. The inauguration took place in the presence of India’s Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw and industry stalwarts such as Mukesh Ambani, CMD, Reliance Industries, Sunil Bharti Mittal, CEO of Bharti Enterprises and Kumar Mangalam Birla, Chairperson, Aditya Birla Group.

India Prime Minister launches 5G service
Launch of 5G services in India by the Hon’ble Prime Minister (Source: India Mobile Congress 2022).

The 4-day event, jointly organized by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), hosted 239 exhibitors, 362 speakers across 80 sessions and over 100,000+ attendees, including 7,000 government officials, 10 union ministers, 17 state ministers, 30,000 students and 1,811 company representatives.

Can India’s 5G launch be considered a generational leap?

Here are 3 key takeaways from India Mobile Congress 2022:

1. Historic Launch of 5G services in India

As we celebrate the historic launch of 5G services in India, around 70 countries across the world already have high-speed 5G networks up and running (as per the Global Suppliers Association report). While the U.S. and China are leading the pack in terms of the most 5G-enabled cities, Europe and the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region score high on the number of 5G networks deployed compared to the Asia-Pacific(APAC) region. What is unique for India, is the seismic shift the country is undergoing from a mere technology consumer to playing an active role in the development and implementation of 5G technology, both in terms of designing the future of wireless technology and the manufacturing related to it. The confluence of business, government and society in enabling this technology uniquely positions India to become a Global Powerhouse of Telco Innovation.

Initially, 5G services in India are being rolled out in 13 cities: Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Chennai, Delhi, Gandhinagar, Gurugram, Hyderabad, Jamnagar, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai, and Pune; with an aim to connect the entire country through 5G in the next two years. From a technology standpoint, major operators (Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and BSNL) in India are adopting Standalone (SA) 5G backed by critical technologies such as Massive Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO), Dynamic Spectrum Refarming (DSR), etc.; operating across 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz,2100 MHz, 2500 MHz, 3300 MHz, and 26 GHz frequency bands.

Hon'ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi addressing at the inauguration of IMC 22 (Source: India Mobile Congress 2022).

Speaking at the IMC 2022 inauguration, the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, said, “The launch of 5G is a gift from the telecom industry to 1.3 billion Indians. It is a step towards the new era in the country and is the beginning of infinite opportunities.”

2. Focus on 5G-specific use-cases

Unlike the usual inaugurations around the world, the one at IMC 2022 was something unique for everyone present. More than the launch of a superior 5G, it was about how technology can act as an enabler to transform people, enterprises, cities and potentially everything. The Hon’ble Prime Minister connected with citizens at a grassroots level using the 5G technology, including a schoolgirl from a remote village in India interacting via hologram with the Prime Minister on stage. He then inspected the work happening inside a metro tunnel using digital twin technology and even participated in a live AR & VR classroom session.

(Left to right) Meeting with the GSMA team, Rakutenians, and the Intel team at IMC 2022.

3 mind-blowing 5G use-cases at IMC 22

  • 5G Remote driving: A live demo test-driving a car in Europe (in a suburb of Stockholm, Sweden) from New Delhi through 5G technology without any latency, allowing consistent vehicle control. Future use-cases of this technology could be mining, surveillance, automated delivery or more – all driven on the backbone of a 5G Autonomous network.
  • Connected Ambulances: A live use case demonstrating urgent medical assistance intervention while a critical patient is taken to the hospital in an ambulance. The emergency technician wore HoloLens glasses that transmitted a live feed to the doctor and received real-time instruction, enabling specialized assistance.
  • 5G glasses for AR, VR and MR: Homegrown AR & VR products and ecosystems that can be used for immersive e-shopping, entertainment, gaming, online education, etc. An AR demo enabling students to conduct live chemistry experiments in a virtual lab environment. 

Other interesting 5G use cases included: Smart Agriculture in the Metaverse, edge AI, holographic communications, cloud gaming, robotic deployments, virtual city tours and more.

3. Rakuten leaders take center-stage

At IMC 2022, Narendra Narayana, Managing Director and President of Rakuten Symphony India, gave a special keynote, “Decoding the potential of Digital India,” on Day 1 of the conference and represented the company at the Global CEO conclave on Day 3. Sunil Gopinath, CEO, Rakuten India, shared his thoughts on “Digital India: How to make it a reality” on Day 1, while Srinivas Gudladana, Head of RAN Engineering Rakuten Symphony, spoke at the Global CTO conclave on Day 3.

Key conference sessions at IMC 2022 (Source: India Mobile Congress 2022)

During Narayana’s special keynote session, he shared a very fascinating story, illustrating the rate of change in the telecom industry. In 1992, explained Narayana, it took 18 months to get a telephone landline connection in India. The connection back then belonged not just to the individual who owned it but to everyone around them (as owning a landline was once considered a luxury). Fast forward to April 2020 and Rakuten Mobile in Japan created the world’s first fully virtualized cloud-native mobile network and launched 4G & 5G services for millions of people in just 18 months. That is the level of transformation that Rakuten was able to achieve. This story is relevant to India because Rakuten Mobile’s disruption was powered in meaningful ways by technology, products and talent from India. In the end, he noted, it is not India’s decade but India’s century, but this can only be achieved if we are able to democratize innovation.

“I see that there are three technology pillars that will define the future of mobile networks across the world: Open RAN, automation and edge cloud."                                                                              
- Narendra Narayana, Managing Director and President of Rakuten Symphony India

At the Global CEO conclave, Narayana was joined by industry experts from Vodafone Idea, AMD, Mavenir, Tata Communications and Keysight Technologies. Speaking at the session, he highlighted how Rakuten brings both the operator and technology vendor perspective. Rakuten Mobile launched its network and services at a record speed of only 18 months. This shows that if an operator agrees to take the first step, the technology is ready and available. The success that was achieved by Rakuten Mobile in Japan is now being made ‘generally available’ for greenfield and brownfield operators globally with Rakuten Symphony and its Symworld™platform.

“We have pioneered Open RAN tech, which is proving to be transformative for the telecom industry."    
- Sunil Gopinath, Chief Executive Officer, Rakuten India

At the Global CTO conclave, our Head of RAN Engineering, Srinivas Gudladana, was joined by technology experts from Reliance Jio, Qualcomm and AMD. Speaking at the event, he said that at Rakuten Symphony, our first belief was in the transformative power of automation, enabling us to reduce 5G base station deployment time to just four minutes (at present, Rakuten Mobile has 275,000 live cell sites managed by just 250 people). This is possible because of Open RAN, Automation, and the use of cloud-native technologies both on the RAN and Core side. He further added that from a network perspective, the biggest innovations that will enable 5G/6G moving ahead will be service automation, end-to-end service assurance, network service monitoring, observability framework and network performance management with a cloud-native approach.

With the theme of “New Digital Universe” this year, India Mobile Congress has genuinely established itself as the ‘one-stop digital destination’ for India and the world.

See you next year at India Mobile Congress 2023!
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